Promote the Repair and Optimal Health of Neuro-Musculoskeletal Tissues

There are a number of ways to utilize the body’s own abilities to heal itself. Some are through employing the body’s own natural defenses and regenerative capabilities to return (completely or almost completely) to the original state following injury. Other ways involve working with pharmacologics, orthobiologics and physical therapies that assist the body in healing itself. The members of our team involved in this focus are busy examining, testing, and utilizing the healing effects of physical therapy, orthobiologics and pharmacologics that help return joints, tendons, and bones and specifically the whole horse to realizing its utmost athletic potential.

1a. Orthobiologic therapies

Orthobiologics are compounds that can help heal musculoskeletal tissues. They are often derived from blood, fat, muscle, or bone marrow. These tissues have abilities to heal our tissues and are at the very core of how our bodies heal themselves. It takes science and strong research efforts to understand how to exploit the natural healing abilities of these tissues. Research at the Orthopaedic Research Center by multiple researchers is contributing to significant advances in this area, and our collaborative efforts with our MD counterparts is allowing application of our knowledge to the human field. Multiple collaborative efforts are in place to study new biologics such as gene therapies, protein therapies and mesenchymal stem cell therapies.

1b. Pharmacologics and other synthesized (or natural) therapeutics

Various pharmacological based therapies exist to quell inflammation (corticosteroids, for example) or treat pain (naturally occurring compounds such as CBD). The Orthopaedic Research Center team has investigated these types of therapeutics for decades now and validated all the commonly used products as well as continuing to validate new therapeutics (such as gene therapies and extracellular vesicles) as they are studied and developed. The original evaluation of therapeutic treatments for joint disease was of intra-articular corticosteroid therapies to treat joint inflammation and definition of beneficial vs. harmful effects for each commonly used product, and if they could be used in a safe and nondamaging way. This was originally investigated by Dr. Wayne McIlwraith with surgical residents and graduate students which has led to decades of research into joint therapies.

1c. Surgical techniques

Arthroscopic techniques in the horse was one of the leading factors that brought treatment of joint problems into the “next century” through Dr. McIlwraith’s initial investigative efforts, of which he established the early research phases within the Orthopaedic Research Center. New surgical techniques for joint disease and tendon disease, and new methods of minimally invasive approaches continue to be developed to within our program. A fellowship within the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, Minimally Invasive Surgery in Equine Orthopedics (encompassing arthroscopy, tenoscopy and bursoscopy, and fracture repair) was initiated by several Orthopaedic Research Center collaborators (Drs. Wayne McIlwraith, Chris Kawcak, Dave Frisbie and Laurie Goodrich) as well as 2 others outside of our group (Drs. Larry Bramlage, Rood and Riddle Equine, and Alan Nixon, Cornell University). Dr. Kyla Ortved (U Penn) has recently joined this fellowship. Dr. Bradley Nelson, CSU equine surgeon, is in the final stages of completing his fellowship at CSU and will be the first fellow to train in this program.

1d. Physical therapy, rehabilitation, and conditioning

Physical therapy and rehabilitation has been known to influence the horse’s ability to return to its full athletic potential. It has been considered a “soft science” because of the lack of scientific documentation. Dr. Melissa King and her team of rehabilitation specialists have now, over the last several years, not only proven how physical therapy and rehabilitation works but have instituted new techniques into the clinical service. This has led to many successes in the equine rehabilitation service translating into a positive impact in our equine patients and some of this work translates directly to humans, dogs, and other species.


Recent publications about promoting repair and optimal health of neuro-musculoskeletal tissues.